Razer: imagine there's no history, you don't even need to try

There are two primary memories I have of the Cold War, and both of these retain a good practical function. The first is of President Ronald Reagan’s rectal polyps whose broad dissection in ‘80s media made me especially mindful of colon health. The second is of a very grumpy history teacher, Mr Dean, who gave me decades of loathing for the song Imagine.

Every time I hear Imagine, I remember the Cold War and its ardent student Mr Dean who called the song, “an oblivious dirge”, “a piece of crap” and “every idiotic conclusion I urge you to avoid in Cold War 1”.

As I was smoking a lot of weed and writing essays even richer in idiocy than John Lennon back then, I did not avoid idiotic conclusions in Cold War 1. But nor did I manage to completely avoid Mr Dean’s critical urging as I grew into adulthood.

You can’t “imagine there’s no countries”, said Mr Dean, unless you first understand how countries came to be. Mr Dean said he would like to teach that utopian hippy about the Peace of Westphalia. This 17th century treaty, he said, was a European moment that gave birth to the powerful idea of the nation state and the world as we currently endure it.

Things don’t just happen, he said. The dense territorial arrogance of the world’s superpowers did not unfold because of a failure to “imagine”. Mr Dean was very cross with the way Russia and the US played out their historical aggressions in the Middle East – “we don’t even have the decency to murder each other these days!”—but he seemed especially cranky with John Lennon. “Tell an Arab to Imagine There’s No Countries! When you’re surrounded by treacherous borders marked by guns and wire, it isn’t Easy If You Try”.

In short, Mr Dean taught me that the unfolding of human history informs us all, that no longhair can undo the Sykes-Picot Agreement and that I should feel real physical revulsion every time the radically ahistoric Imagine was played. And so, I do. Which is usually fine, until the damn thing re-emerges, as it does from time to time, as a signifier of hope for many but only as a reminder to me of the dangers that inhere in pretending that history is just something we can overcome.

This past weekend, Imagine became unavoidable. Outside Bataclan, the Paris nightclub in which an estimated 90 people were slaughtered, a pianist was filmed playing the old song and this moment was widely reported. To be clear, this is not, even for a millisecond, to police the grief of those who were moved by the song nor is it to diminish the brutality of the deaths the song commemorated.

It is, however, to say that Mr Dean’s lessons are no longer taught. And to suggest, in a spirit of peace and not one of disgust or even patient judgement, that the end of history in the consciousness of the west is an urgent problem.

Again, to be as clear and as loving as possible in a moment, we are all agreed, is darkened by hate, I am not proposing here that all the western world needs now is to crack some history books.

First, my grasp of international relations begins and largely ends with Mr Dean, who (generously) awarded me 51% for Cold War 1, so, I am hardly qualified to say “this is the way to solve the problem of jihadism”. Second, I am not, largely thanks to Mr Dean, so utopian that I think there is any simple prescription for complex ills. Third, I do not suppose that my experience on Saturday, so removed from the direct experience of war, is particularly instructive. But I offer it, nonetheless, in the hope that a brief account of my reflections on Paris, begun in ineluctable loathing for a song and ended in historic confusion, might help you find a little sense in yours.

On Saturday, the weight of Mr Dean was on my mind. Or, more to the point, the agonising lightness of the song Imagine was. Even if one did not hear this song, one felt its echoes elsewhere. In this piece by The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood, published in March but widely shared as wisdom again across the weekend, we are urged in a sophisticated way to “imagine” “no religion”. You can call his analysis realist post-Saidism if you want, but it did boil down to the utopian view that we can overcome history with moral goodness. Of which the west, apparently emptied of any kind of harmful ideology at all, has abundant supply.

It was a more candid Imagine favoured by the singer Billy Bragg in a popular Facebook post which, again, made religion the culprit.

Bragg, whose records I used to enjoy back when I was Mr Dean’s worst pupil, has long positioned himself as a good student of history. He has sung The Internationale, filmed a documentary on Tasmanian convict history and written in The Guardian that history was “far from being a stuffy subject that concerns itself merely with kings,” but an indispensable tool for understanding. This is a guy who has not just said “our past is important” but “the way in which we choose to read our past is important”. This makes him an amateur historiographer and, therefore, much more sophisticated that the rest of us.

But, still. The guy unleashed naiveté of a sort that we could overlook in a more generally vacant celebrity but seems especially curious here. When the guy who bangs out “between the wars” and references dialectical materialism in interviews starts saying “they hate our freedom”, you start wondering if someone burnt all the books.

Bragg’s post troubled me because it was so empty of history; even empty of a memory of very recent events. Therein, he took exception to the fact that the terrible attacks had taken place on a Friday night when people were “enjoying themselves”. “This was an abhorrent attack on anyone who goes to a bar, or to a restaurant, to a gig or to a game”.

No, it was just an abhorrent attack. To say that it was particularly abhorrent because of the time of day or the activity of its civilian victims is to necessarily say that it could have been less abhorrent. What is a less abhorrent time and place for murder? It is early Saturday morning at a hospital in Kunduz where no one was enjoying themselves at all? Was it last week in Mosul where an Iraqi family of 7 was murdered by Coalition airstrikes? Bragg, a person who explicitly critiques the privileging of one reading of history over another, lost little time in privileging, and demolishing, history.

Again, to be painfully clear, this critique is not to diminish any grief that you, Bragg or John Kerry might feel for the noncombatant victims. Murder is murder is murder and if you happen to feel more compassion for those it claims in Paris than you do for patients and doctors at a hospital in Afghanistan, you’re not a bad person. You’re a person crying real tears. There is no need for your grief to be proportionately given to all those noncombatants who suffer in the world. After all, if there were, you’d do nothing these days but cry for the Middle East. No one has time for that.

But, what we may still have time for is an understanding that is derived not only from necessary, cathartic emotion but one that Billy Bragg has decided to abandon.

To unburden ourselves of the weight of history is a luxury we have in the west. It’s one in which I consciously indulged when I forced myself away from the internet’s accommodating void and took a run to the shops.

Aldi, a discount supermarket, rarely fails to make me feel better with its absurdity. I rarely purchase from their peculiar rotating array of weekly specials that might include food dehydrators, hospital tables or SCUBA gear, but I always grin in their direction.

Last Saturday, though, everything was making me miserable and when I saw that the store was selling vinyl LPs, I started screaming to myself “THIS IS THE WESTERN END OF HISTORY! NOTHING IS REAL ANYMORE”.

And, yes, obviously I am a wanker who was badly damaged by Cultural Studies in the ’90s and, yes, obviously, there is nothing particularly wrong with the production or consumption of obsolete technology in a discount store. If someone wants a manufactured antique that is less a copy of an original, than it is a copy of empty hipster fetishism that itself copies nothing except the fiction of its own refined taste, that’s okay. But I describe this anxiety, which was about to reach its post-hipster high water mark, only in the mild hope that you can find a way to measure your own unease against my sense of the disappearing real.

I left Aldi, which had failed to make me happy, and resumed my jog around the perimeter of the nation’s second-oldest shopping mall. Sometimes, when I feel myself dissolving into the confusion of everyday life in the west, this approach works well. If I run around something that I would normally approach only by car, I feel that I make it more real. Or, at least, I feel the anxiety diminish and my footing in the world resume.

Out on a run to the shops and away from Billy Bragg and the millions shrieking “they hate our freedom”, it struck me that “we hate our history”. We must do, because what I happened to run into outside the carpark of this private space was a fleet of food trucks.

We have a very scant history of “food trucks” in Australia. It is one largely limited to the sale of dagwood dogs. Even in the US, from which our new fascination for food trucks is recently borrowed, the “chuck wagon” has an uneven history which does not logically lead up to its hipster present which is not so much a matter of revival as it is of offensive reinvention. In the case of middle-class American mini-Bourdains who congratulate themselves for their courage and the ability of their palates to tolerate “street food”, the false asceticism is bad enough. It’s just awful to simulate poverty. But, it was more awful at my shopping mall whose 50 year tradition exceeds that of the faux “old timey” food truck armada and its mise-en-scene provided by centre management which included branded 44 gallon drums newly manufactured to appear rustic and “real”.

This wasn’t even a sale or a display of something to pretending to be something that it wasn’t. It was something that was so relaxed, it couldn’t even be arsed pretending to have an anchor in history.

Again, there is nothing particularly wrong with the purchase of reproduced reproductions or of paying $10 for a rice paper roll in a rusticated carpark when you could have bought one for three dollars inside. There is nothing more morally reprehensible about this act than there is in crying at a version of Imagine, or, indeed, of sneering at it and wondering if Yoko collected royalties.

And, unless you are a foreign policy adviser, there is probably nothing wrong with forgetting history altogether and freeing yourself from its troublesome bonds.

But, there is something impossible about believing that the “freedom” that we enjoy, or endure, to be ahistoric is a perspective that everyone in the world understands.

On the battlegrounds of Iraq, or on the streets of Paris, young men who have had little education that did not come from radical mullahs, learn history. They learn about Sykes-Picot and they see themselves not as products of the present, able to pop down to Aldi to buy reproduced reproductions, but as the historical result of colonisation that continues to unfold. And one that unfolds from overhead. You can’t shoot back at airstrikes, so you shoot where you can.

These are not individuals loosed from a series of events who see symbols of the past configured into meaninglessness. That’s a western “privilege” you can see served up in a food truck.

Again and again to be clear, this is not to say the young men of ISIS and scions are justified or free in their actions — it seems absurd to say “I don’t condone murder”, but we have arrived at a time where one must state the obvious. To state it: what happened in Paris sickens me to my core and I have been undergoing a stupid anxiety attack in supermarkets and elsewhere now for 48 hours.

The anxiety is worthless and the only thing it has given me is the half-arsed idea that the history we have abandoned in our everyday lives and reproduced down to nothing in supermarkets has been outsourced to wartorn nations. And, unless we, as everyday subjects and not as powerful people, begin to understand that some people live their lives chained to history and borders, we will not be as “free” as we presume ourselves to be.

We have the pleasure of forgetfulness and the joy of free movement. We move through borders and we tear through history and we say, from within this lovely bubble of ignorance, that the most significant difference between Us and Them is “religion”. Why can’t they “imagine” none of it?

Perhaps, roughly, for the same reasons we cannot imagine anything beyond the present which we believe, with all our hearts, bears no relation to the past.

Main image: View over Paris, at dusk, from the Maine-Montparnasse tower. Source: Wikimedia commons.

29 responses to “Razer: imagine there's no history, you don't even need to try

  1. Why do we have historians? No one listens to them. In the middle east one particular nation hates the USA. And it has been called part of the axis of evil. But no one ever asks why Iran hates the USA. This hatred is a fundamental obstacle to peace in the region. Yet you never hear the name Mosaddegh, ever. I hope Helen has. Forget it Helen. No one cares about history. Who cares about history when you can be right without knowing anything. In fact its easier.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Mosaddegh

  2. ‘What is the ideology that has taken the most lives in the world?
    Islam doesn’t make the hit parade’

    A surprisingly silly sentiment Helen. What difference does it make which ideology has caused the most deaths? This is like saying that because Disco was the most popular form of music n the mid 70’s, it is the most popular form of music currently. Utterly Ridiculous. Not all Religions are equally bad at all times. Islam is, far and away, the worst going right now–and we need to recognize that.
    we all need to collectively begin lobbying against it as much as possible–right now. Start by boycotting halal certified goods–unless of course you want to pay a religious tax, which will never be redirected to any non-muslim charity, and will be used to at least partially fund terrorism through the mechanism of Zakat. Ever wondered why you don’t hear about Muslim charities? That’s because they don’t cater to non-muslims. So whenever you buy anything Halal certified, you are being forced to pay a religious tax–to a religion you probably find abhorrent, so that people who consider you and infidel can redirect your money to people who also consider you an infidel and possibly want to kill you. Start by not paying extremists to commit mass murder.

    Grow a pair. Protect your values.

    1. Not to create some kind of comment circle jerk here but I have to return the Captain’s favor and support their most recent comment and address Helen’s reply.

      What difference does it make which ideology has caused the most deaths?

      Exactly. Helen, your rhetorical question is a disturbing inversion of holocaust deniers who say ridiculous things like: “Hitler only exterminated 3 million Jews, not 6.”

      As if the moral implications of such an act are lessened by arithmetic alone.

      If indeed you have “more than incidental knowledge of Islam” then you know that the criticisms offered by myself and Captain Rotgut of the specific problems inherent to the Islamic religious texts are accurate and if that’s the case I don’t know how you could knowingly support an ideology that not only permits the slaughter of non-believers, but rewards it.

      As for the comparision between Daesh motivations and “imagine there’s no country”, I’ve read enough of your work to know that you are smart enough to recognize that Lennon was talking about rejecting tribalism/in-out group thinking with that line… not to mention the fact that I don’t know how an organization whose aim is to establish a state could be said to want no states.

      What I’d be interested to know is why, if Daesh is merely a response to Western Imperialism, why then have their primary victims been innocent Muslims?

      That seems an odd way to combat the West.

  3. What is most disturbing about this piece is that it is s devoid of any new ideas while masquerading as free thinking.

    The truth is this is exactly the narrative we have been hearing for years: the problem is us.

    The message: The only reason there are radicals is because of our actions in the Middle East.

    I wonder Helen, if you really believe that or has your recent brush with Internet infamy cowed your opinion? And if so, why? Never mind that Radicalized groups like daesh and boko harem have stated their motivations tirelessly, variations on bringing sharia law to the entire world.

    This broken record response from the regressive left serves only to silence any critique of the central ideas of the religious doctrine that underpins the appalling actions like those in Paris .

    It would be nice to IMAGINE a world where there were no justifications for this kind of barbarism contained within heir religious texts, but this is Manifestly inaccurate.

    Read the books, I implore you. Not just the Koran but the trilogy (Koran, Sunna and Hadith ), they are problematic in a way that no other religion is.

    As for the bollocks about “imagine there’s no country”, you only reinforced the point Lennon was trying to make in the first place, if there were no boundaries the problems espoused by mr dean would be solved by the imaginary irradiation of arbitrary geographic boundaries so it seems mr dean was just a moron who failed to see that hat was exactly he point Lennon was making. Nice work reprinting that foolishness

    1. I agree 100% Fedup. Violence and absurdity typify all the cults of Abraham, but none manifest it with anything like the level of efficacy and frequency of Islam. In fact, when you look at any–I repeat, any Muslim population, you will find that they are invariably in conflict with their neighbors.

      Let’s forget about the Middle East for a moment ( because it’s so patently obvious that extremism is pretty much the order of the day throughout the entire region t doesn’t warrant discussion) and look at southeastern Islam:

      East Timor: Muslims slaughtered a third of the population (Catholics).
      Phillpines: Ultra violent Muslim rebellion currently on the boil
      Indonesia; Spice islands, Christians virtually extinct owing to what can only be described as contemporary Islamic Crusades
      Thailand; Ultra violent Muslim rebellion currently on the boil
      China: Chinese government taking measures to stamp out Ultra violent Islamic faction
      India: Undoubtedly the state most profoundly affected by Islamic crusades. Ever hear of the Hindu holocaust? Look into that. In fact the Religion of Sikh actually arose as a counter to Hindu slaughter at the hands of Muslims. In Kashmir, violence is still occurring as a result of a large Muslim presence.
      Africa: Constant war in Sudan. Muslims exterminating Christians, over 2 million dead. Constant instability in Nigeria owing to pressure from Muslim faction to usher in Shariah law.

      What people cannot seem, or else to refuse to recognize, is that Islam is both a political and Religious doctrine; Islam does not see a separation between church and state, or the need for one.There is no concept of this in Islam. The ultimate goal of Islam is to usher in Shari’ah for this reason–in fact, t s the DUTY of all Muslims to spread shari’ ah. Islam does not have religeous guidelines, it is practically a religious and political plan that is designed to completely organize society at every level. This extends to:

      worship
      all business transactions
      morality and mannerisms
      legislation
      belief
      punishments

      And to make things worse, the Quran also emphatically states, over and over again, that ‘man made’ systems are abominations in the eyes of Allah and must be destroyed and replaced with Shari’ah.

      As such, what you get wherever you find a Mulsim population is an inevitable push for Shari’ah–or, to put it another way, sharah creep. And it is happening right now all over the world. In the UK and elsewhere in Europe, there are already shari’ah courts. The verdicts of these ‘courts’ are not recognized officially, but this makes little difference in practice as many Muslims simply opt to have their disputes adjudicated by clerics instead of judges and lawyers. Many cases of domestic abuse fly under the radar for this reason—mostly because it’s acceptable to beat your wife under shari’ah (yes, really). You know what else shari’ah sanctions? Murder of apostates. That is to say, any critic, either MUSLIM OR NON-MUSLIM, of the Quran, Muhammad, or Shari’ah.

      People on the west are, if not versed in Christianity, juadaism, are at least familiar enough with them, even abstractly, to know that the texts belonging to each are collections of stories, parables, written by various authors often hundreds of years apart. And because of this, people assume the same of the Quran. Not so. The Quran is written by one man; a rug merchant who supposedly spoke to the Angel of God in cave and who consummated his marriage to a nine year old Girl. I am not making this up. Look into it.

      The Quran is not symbolical like the bible. It was written to be taken literally, and is meant to be followed literally, and rigidly. It is composed almost entirely of declarative statements–that is, direct commands.

      Now, here’s where it all gets extremely terrifying:

      Religious texts are invariably contradictory. The bible, for example, makes no attempt to resolve this; one is left to simply left to choose which concept the prescribe to. The Quran, alternatively, does offer a solution–and this is simply that the most recently written verse supersedes the former. Just think about what that means for a moment.

      This is referred to as abrogation.

      Now, the peaceful passages of Islam are the oldest. Think about what that means for a moment, too.

      You see, when people here Muslims quotiing extremist verses from Islamic texts, and when they hear Muslims quoting peaceful verses from Islamic texts, they fallaciously equate this with the way various Christians from various denominations refer to the bible. In fact, the process is utterly different. Muslims cannot, because of the mechanism of abrogation, pick and choose from their texts and follow the instruction or advice of relevant passages via this process. The Quran explicitly states that no Muslim can alter or ignore any part of Islamic doctrine. In reality, the terrorists involved in the recent Paris attacks were simply being perfect Muslims.

    2. “Imagine there’s no countries” is actually the point IS is making.
      Mr Dwan was a decent historiographer. He might have been a bit of a Realist when it came to foreign policy. But he was a great guy who had been conscripted to Vietnam and educated immediately after in history for his trouble.
      I have more than incidental knowledge of Islam.
      I can also count. What is the ideology that has taken the most lives in the world?
      Islam doesn’t make the hit parade.

  4. Well, what’s a man to do? Fundamentalist Christians, jews and Muslims all playing footsie over impending Armageddon and new Messiah bragging rights. Corporations taking over the world by treaty in the holy name of Business is Business. And 6 million TV channels all full of .. well, not very much at all. Laugh or cry, laugh or cry.

    Helen, love your work. You got me all those years ago when you rang up Judith Lucy on air on the J’s and laid a long and drunken rant on her. They don’t do stuff like that no more.

    1. That was funny! I am mortified by the memory of abasing myself to so many pairs of ears but I I agree it is a shame that everyone is now so publicly well-behaved. That moment would never have got to air in this decade of decency standards.

  5. Finally the day has come when the cancer of hipsterism (and post-hipsterism! already?!?) is explained in connection to the west’s unconscious civilisation (to rob John Ralston Saul).

    Fantastic!

  6. Thank you Helen Razor. You’re the antidote to the superficial gush coming from every screen and speaker when the victims of those deranged and dis-empowered Arab boys aren’t their usual irrelevant brown-skinned victims but nice white Western folk instead.
    I wish I’d had a Mr Dean.

  7. On the point of vinyl records, some music actually does sound better on Vinyl, and people prefer it as an interface for this reason. You know modern records are brought out on vinyl, right? I have a mazzy star record on Vinyl actually (not a good example of current music, but vinyl was out the door when said album was released).

    .’They learn about Sykes-Picot and they see themselves not as products of the present, able to pop down to Aldi to buy reproduced reproductions, but as the historical result of colonisation that continues to unfold. And one that unfolds from overhead. You can’t shoot back at airstrikes, so you shoot where you can’.

    This does, despite the declaimer in the following paragraph, com perilously close to condoning terror–or perhaps rationalizing it. Let me be clear; Islamic extremism is the greatest threat to western liberty that exists, and anyone–should they either subscribe, or sympathize with extremist ideology must be destroyed. Obliterated. It beggars belief that the presence of extremest clerics are tolerated in place such as Australia, and the UK. In a sane universe–or perhaps of in which people understood that the rights and freedoms they enjoy were not given, but won, through oceans of blood and sacrifice, such people would have their citizenship revoked, and be deported. Simple.

    Now, I’m pretty left of center. In fact, I’ll come clean now; I am a socialist. Having studied the great philosophical and economic works of many, Marx remains pretty much the only one in the crowd who remains, according to my intellect basically non-falsified. I’m sorry. It is what it is.

    And for those who read this, see the word Marx and think of breadlines, do yourself a favor; don’t listen to people talking about Marx. Just read Marx.

    That said, I am getting to the point where I would vote in any ultra-right neocon despot if I was assured that extremist Muslim clerics and apologists would be erased from the face of my society utterly as a result of that vote. Basically, what I would like to see is extremists of any variety, literal or sympathetically (and anyone pro shari ‘ah) herded up, stuck in a rocket ship and fired a few thousand miles left of the moon and into the black abyss of space. How long are we going to pretend that this isn’t a problem?

    And for all you bearded, peroxided, limp-wristed latte guzzling melbournites with your absurd stovepipe black levis, beards and Dali mustaches, standing in herds on streetcorners, holding sweatshop -made candles which carve your broad dumb faces into goblinish phizogs of self-righteous hypocrisy –do me favor; stop talking both sides of the street. If you want to help a refugee, let one sleep on your couch. Help a refugee out on your dollar, not mine–because I don’t want to pay, and i don’t want to displace thousands of low-income Australians, mostly people with disabilities, from housing. Because that is what is going to happen. We’re in a housing crisis; where do you people think these people are going to go? Birdsville? Can I suggest your spare room? If you care about refugees so much, then put one up on your time, energy and dollar. But don’t stand around on street corners holding candles–because that doesn’t achieve anything. I suspect it isn’t about achieving anything though is it? It’s more identity politics, more dramaturgy. To put it simply, you want the kudos of being seen to care without the responsibility of actually doing anything to earn it. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the great corrosive social phenomena of our age in a nutshell. Let’s all skip into hell pretending we give a shit about things so we can get laid and people can think we’re cool. Yippee Kai Aye!

    Frankly, Saudi Arabia should be absorbing the Syrian refugee fallout. They have the oodles of wealth, acres of empty tent cities, and the worlds second most well funded army on Earth. It’s their backyard. Let them deal with it. And while we’re on that, what are the Saudi’s doing to help combat ISIS? Doodley squat.

    *rubs temples*

    unbelievable.

        1. Mazzy Star – I really need to get them on vinyl! One of the best bands of the early nineties!

          “Having studied the great philosophical and economic works of many”
          – good to hear you have researched. Have you read Mises, Hayek or Rothbard? I would venture to add though that your opinion may differ if you have had.

          ” don’t listen to people talking about Marx. Just read Marx.” – but the reality does not live up to the theory. Is it more of a faith then? A religion?

          “because I don’t want to pay” – nobody like to be robbed! Taxation is legal plunder. Civilisation is the absence of theft, rape and violence. So why run a society through legal plunder backed up with the threat of violence. Pay your tax! – or we kidnap you and put you in a cage.

          “and i don’t want to displace thousands of low-income Australians” – are some people more equal to other people??

          “If you want to help a refugee, let one sleep on your couch.” – this is a much better solution to legal plunder and government. It is voluntary, real welfare and comes from the heart rather than theft. Government solutions if not counter-productive are very inefficient.

          “without the responsibility of actually doing anything to earn it. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the great corrosive social phenomena of our age in a nutshell.”
          -so true! Well said sir! Government furthermore takes away the agency of people, their ability to respond (responsibility). Thise yelling loudest for the govt. are happy to help refugees as long as it is not them and they do not have to do anything.

    1. ‘Basically, what I would like to see is extremists of any variety, literal or sympathetically (and anyone pro shari ‘ah) herded up, stuck in a rocket ship and fired a few thousand miles left of the moon and into the black abyss of space’.

      Congratulations, your simplistic extremism has earned you a seat on board your own rocket ship.

  8. And we’re getting even dumber. I’m no student of history, but looking at it purely from the perspective of the current times, you have to admit that years and years of blowing the shit out of people and stuff over there is eventually going to piss people off. This has allowed ISES to flourish, and according to what I have read they have extreme views which are shunned by 99.99% all Muslims, Christians and other religions as well as atheists.

    In short, they are the radical fringe. They attract the deluded and disgruntled that committed those horrible murders in Paris. They are murderers with what they think is an excuse or justified purpose. We need to get better at critical assessment and actions so that no excuse, no purpose, can be possible justification. Imagining the lack of borders or pretending that its not happening won’t make it go away. A good place to start would just understanding the Syrian conflict and the role of all the players, including the west. It will take more than 5 minutes, and there’s no app.

  9. The other forgetting of history is the trumpeting of France as the home of liberty, equality and freedom – apparently inextricably linked to something called the French “soul”. In fact, the Algerians who make up a great part of France’s Muslim population probably remember what it was like under French colonial rule and the intractable, cruel and grotesquely unfair way in which the French resisted their right to self determination. Not that I hold any brief for murderers of any persuasion – let’s get out and let the big endians fight it out with the little endians.

  10. Your articles always get me thinking a little deeper Helen. I look forward to reading your thoughts here and with the Big Issue regularly. I admire the way you put yourself on the line emotionally to respond personally to your readership also. Thank you.

  11. what purpose,exactly,do the incoherent babblings of Helen Razer serve in the grand scheme of things?We have all had annoying teachers at school.We have all listened to songs and thought,’gee,that’s a load of bollocks’.We have all had a love/hate realtionship with Billy Bragg.Unfortunately,not all of us are paid hard cash by an internet ‘magazine’,or whatever Daily Review is supposed to be,to rave on and on about stuff in a completely directionless manner,offering no solutions to the problems of the world.

    1. And we have all had a red at 1am on a week night and thereafter decided that the best course of action was to leave comments on internet articles calling the author a wanker to douse those frustrations the shiraz failed to.

      1. Are you saying you were drunk when you wrote this? That would explain the lack of coherence. It’s a bit unfair, to blame poor old Mr Dean for this rambling procession of straw men.

        1. She was referring to the time that Damien posted. Whether that is justified or reasonable is another question.

          For what it’s worth, I liked her article.

      2. The clue is in the 5th word. ‘incoherent’ and the subsequent argument from incredulity…
        I can’t understand this so it’s all nonsense.

        If only we all held journalists to offering solutions to the world. Might not have had an Mr Bolt to study in high school English..

    2. I would point out that it is the west who hates their freedom as it is they who allow their rulers to implement more and more surveillance and totalitarian measures as a result of the attacks.
      As for solutions, how about not sending over more planes to drop bombs inviting more blow back leading to shutting down more freedoms and sending over more planes inviting more blow back. etc.

      How about an investigation of this being a staged event as many of these attacks seemed to coincide with drills?

      One should point out that as far as France goes anyway, the Muslims really just need to keep breading and through the idiocy of democracy they will bring sharia law into France anyway eventually.

      How about the truth of the criminal Trump’s comment,”You can say what you want, but if they had guns — if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry — it would have been a much, much different situation,”?
      Leftists are going to hate that! If you have the right to life though then you have the right to defend that life! Why do we have to ask permission to defend ourselves. Why do we have an organisation that has a monopoly on the use of violence. An organisation that usually extorts us rather than protects us.
      As it is you can have a gun if you are a road pirate (or a criminal).

    3. Two points: 1) I don’t think it’s Helen Razer’s responsibility to ‘offer solutions to the problems of the world.’ I don’t pretend to know her exact salary but I think that’s probably a few paygrades up.
      2) No, I’ve *always* hated Billy Bragg. I know he had important things to say; I just don’t understand why he chose to ‘sing’ them. That godawful ‘Sexuality’ song played throughout my first two years of uni and it was about as sexy as walking in on your grandpa having a wank.

    4. Helen’s “ramblings” are far from incoherent. She’s one of the few who talks about the things that keep me awake at night and so she should fucking get paid for it because THAT’S WHAT GOOD WRITERS AND THINKERS ARE MEANT TO DO!

      I don’t really get how if her writing leaves you flaccid you don’t just flick away and read something else.

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